The Supreme Court makes an important Miranda rights ruling

Over the summer, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that some commentators are now arguing has undermined the Miranda warning. 

By now, from television shows and movies, everyone is familiar with the Miranda warning that is given by police to suspects. It goes:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

The Supreme Court first recognized this Miranda warning as a constitutionally-afforded protection back in the 1966 case Miranda v. Arizona. And, the warning has since been reaffirmed by the court in 2000.

But, a recent decision by the court may have just weakened the warning, according to some.


The case that the justices decided back in June is Vega v. Tekoh. 

Terence Tekoh was accused of sexually assaulting a patient at the medical center where he worked. A police officer, Carlos Vega, then questioned Tekoh without reading him the Miranda warning, and that questioning led to a confession that was used against him at trial. The jury did end up finding Tekoh not guilty.

Tekoh, though, subsequently sued Vega, arguing that, under federal law, he ought to be awarded damages because Vega violated his constitutional rights. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said that Tekoh could pursue such a lawsuit, but the U.S. Supreme Court ended up disagreeing.

The justices ruled that an un-Mirandized suspect whose confession is used against him at trial cannot pursue damages under federal law for an apparent Miranda warning violation. In plainer language, a police officer can’t be sued under federal law for failing to read a suspect his Miranda warning.

What of it?

Now, some commentators are arguing that the Supreme Court has essentially gutted the Miranda warning.

That argument was made in a recent article for Esquire by Mitchell S. Jackson, who clearly is not the biggest proponent of law and order as he opines that there are “reasonable arguments for police abolition or, in the least, reform.”

The argument is also made, among others, by the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board, which writes that “if police are not compelled to read Miranda warnings by the threat of lawsuits, then there is no impetus for them to do so.” This, of course, overlooks that police are compelled by the fact that their case against the suspect could be fatally undermined if they failed to read the Miranda warnings.

Probably everything that you need to know about this situation can be summed up by the fact that the court’s majority opinion in Tekoh was written by Justice Samuel Alito, while the dissent was written by liberal Justice Elena Kagan. And, as always, the liberals are looking to give criminals and suspected criminals a windfall over the justice system.

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